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Flyers' streak grows thanks to frantic finish

DENVER - Eighty seconds remained Wednesday night, and the Flyers, desperately clinging to a one-goal lead and trying to extend their winning streak to the franchise's longest in 31 years, were gassed.

DENVER - Eighty seconds remained Wednesday night, and the Flyers, desperately clinging to a one-goal lead and trying to extend their winning streak to the franchise's longest in 31 years, were gassed.

It wasn't the enormity of their winning streak that had them in scramble mode in Denver, although that contributed to the drama. And the chaos.

Colorado had, in effect, a two-man advantage because it had pulled its goalie and one of the Flyers, Wayne Simmonds, was playing without a stick and valiantly trying to block shots with his body.

In a bizarre sequence, defenseman Andrew MacDonald broke his stick, and center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare handed him his stick. And then Simmonds passed along his stick to Bellemare.

After the stick exchange, "it was kind of a rodeo after that," Simmonds said after the Flyers registered their 10th straight win, a 4-3 escape over the Avalanche.

The Flyers were literally huffing and puffing. They were unable to clear the puck - Bellemare failed on one attempt, primarily because he had a borrowed stick that was curved the wrong way (for him) - and drained from the high altitude that victimizes lots of opposing teams that play at the Pepsi Center.

But goalie Steve Mason made some key saves, and when the final horn sounded, the Flyers had their longest winning streak since 1985.

"Just an all-out battle," said Mason, who survived a 14-shot barrage in the final period. ". . . It was a heck of a way to close out the game."

"The guys did a great job of blocking shots and tying up sticks," defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. "Mase stood on his head again and it was a big character win for us."

Simmonds said that if the Flyers could redo the last five minutes, they would play differently.

"We kind of sat back," he said. ". . . That's not what we want to do."

During the streak, the Flyers have had more grit than grace, and they have won games in every way imaginable, whether it was brilliant goaltending by Mason or Anthony Stolarz, offensive eruptions by their big four - Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Brayden Schenn - or clutch contributions by their less-heralded players, such as Bellemare, Michael Raffl, or Roman Lyubimov.

Left winger Travis Konency is on a 17-game goal-scoring drought, but he has made an impact with his speed, creative passing, and tenacity. The team's other 19-year-old rookie, Ivan Provorov, has anchored a defense that has made nice strides after a disappointing first month.

Put it all together and you have a team riding the NHL's longest winning streak this season.

"I'm really proud of the way everybody in this locker room has performed," Mason said. 'We've found different ways to win hockey games, but the one constant is that guys are battling. That's what we need. This team has so much care and character, and when everybody's going [strong], we're a hard team to play against."

If you exclude their two-empty net scores, the Flyers have won eight of the last 10 games by one goal during their streak.

"Every single win is needed," Simmonds said. It seems like "every single team in our division is on a streak in our division. We're just trying to keep pace."

Pittsburgh and Columbus have each won seven straight, and Washington has a five-game winning streak.

The Flyers will aim for their 11th consecutive victory Saturday afternoon in Dallas.

"I've never won 10 in a row in any league, never mind the NHL. Never," Simmonds said. "So it's pretty special."

"We're happy with the way we're playing right now," said Del Zotto, who scored his third goal in his last seven games and was plus-2 Wednesday. "We're getting contributions from everyone. Our PK has done a great job, our PP has scored big goals. And both of our goalies have stood on their heads.

"It's fun to be around the rink right now."

Second-year coach Dave Hakstol, the man behind the streak, simplified the team's success.

"It's just a group of guys going out every day and working hard for points," he said Thursday after practice in Denver. "That's the bottom line. A bunch of players who are on the same page and battling hard night after night."

And putting together one of the most remarkable runs in the franchise's 50-year history.